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Minuteman 3
Part of Minuteman Family
Minuteman 3
Minuteman 3
Credit: US Air Force
American four-stage solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile. In the 21st Century, the sole remaining US ICBM.

AKA: LGM-30G;Mk. 12A;W78. Status: Active. First Launch: 1968-08-16. Last Launch: 2017-02-09. Number: 299 . Payload: 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). Thrust: 935.00 kN (210,196 lbf). Gross mass: 35,400 kg (78,000 lb). Height: 18.23 m (59.80 ft). Diameter: 1.68 m (5.50 ft). Span: 1.89 m (6.20 ft). Apogee: 1,600 km (900 mi).

The Minuteman III increased the throw-weight of the missile by adding a larger constant-diameter third stage. This allowed the single warhead of earlier missiles to be replaced by a maneuvering bus that would dispense three Mk.12 Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles, each with a 170 kT W-62 thermonuclear warhead. Development began in July 1965; first launch was in August 1968, and 550 Minuteman III's were deployed between April 1970 and January 1977. A mid-1970s update provided the missile with an improved-guidance system and remote retargeting of the missiles. 300 missiles received an improved warhead section with three Mk.12A MIRVs with 340 kT W-78 warheads and improved decoys. These gave these Minuteman III's a hard-target kill capability against Soviet ICBM silos at the expense of reduced the range. Tests of a 7-MIRV version were undertaken in the 1970s, but arms treaty limits meant these were not deployed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, arms treaties meant that 450 Minuteman III's, each equipped with a single warhead, provided the land-based deterrent of the United States through 2030. 350 of these missiles were equipped with single Mk. 21/W87 warheads; 150 with single Mk. 12A's.

Development Cost $: 2,694.600 million. Recurring Price $: 4.905 million in 1971 dollars. Flyaway Unit Cost 1985$: 2.900 million in 1971 dollars. Maximum range: 12,900 km (8,000 mi). Number Standard Warheads: 3. Standard RV: Mk. 12A. Standard warhead: W78. Warhead yield: 335 KT. CEP: 0.37 km (0.22 mi). Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket. Cruise engine: SR19-AJ-1. Maximum speed: 29,030 kph (18,030 mph). Initial Operational Capability: 1970. Total Number Built: 830. Total Development Built: 46. Total Production Built: 794.

Historical Essay © Andreas Parsch

Boeing SM-80-LGM-30 Minuteman 3

The LGM-30G Minuteman III was an improved LGM-30F with a new enlarged third stage (with the same diameter as the second stage), using an Aerojet SR73-AJ-1 motor, and a radically new warhead section. The warhead section carried three Mk.12 MIRV (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles), each with a 170 kT W-62 thermonuclear warhead. To use the MIRV capability effectively, a small post-boost liquid-fuel restartable rocket was incorporated in the warhead section. This rocket was used for course changes between the release of the individual Mk.12 RVs for truly independent targeting. A new guidance unit was also needed to control these manoeuvers. Development of the Minuteman III started in July 1965, and the first launch occurred in August 1968. Deployment began in April 1970, and eventually 550 LGM-30Gs were placed in silos, some of them as replacements for earlier Minuteman missiles. By 1969, the final LGM-30A, and by 1974, the final LGM-30B was retired.

In the mid-1970s, the LGM-30G received an updated guidance system, which improved accuracy. Additionally, the launch control centers were equipped with the possibility to retarget the missiles electronically - the earlier retargeting practice required physically changing a data tape in the missile's guidance computer. The more important change to the Minuteman III force was the installation of an improved warhead section (three Mk.12A MIRVs with 340 kT W-78 warheads and improved decoys) in 300 missiles. Improved accuracy of the Mk.12A, and the higher-yield warhead, gave the LGM-30G a hard-target kill capability against Soviet ICBM sites. However, the heavier warhead section also significantly reduced the range, so that not all possible targets in the Soviet Union could be reached. At some time in the 1970s, some test lauches with a new 7-MIRV warhead section were made, but this was not implemented in the operational force.

Production of the Minuteman ended in January 1977, after more than 2400 missiles had been built. Since then, many missiles were refurbished, because cracks in the solid fuel required a complete refill of the motors. The future of the Minuteman force is currently dictated by the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START). As a result of START, production and deployment of the LGM-118 Peacekeeper, originally developed as a Minuteman successor, has been halted. START II limits the land-based ICBM force to 500 single-RV missiles, so all LGM-30F Minuteman IIs have been retired or converted to single-RV Minuteman IIIs, and the remaining Minuteman IIIs are all converted to single warheads. The Minuteman is expected to remain in service until at least 2020.

The motors of retired Minuteman missiles are increasingly used to assemble cheap high-performance rockets for experimental and test purposes, like boosting targets or interceptor vehicles in the ongoing ballistic missile defense development program. Typical configurations include two-stage rockets, using either the first two, or final two (2nd-3rd) stages of Minuteman. The official designation NLGM-30F is allocated to Minuteman IIs converted to test vehicles.

Specifications

Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for LGM-30A-B-F-G (-30G with Mk.12 MIRVs):

  LGM-30A LGM-30B LGM-30F LGM-30G
Length 16.4 m (53 ft 8 in) 17.0 m (55 ft 11 in) 17.6 m (57 ft 7 in) 18.2 m (59 ft 9.5 in)
Diameter 1.7 m (5 ft 6 in) (1st stage)
Weight 29400 kg (65000 lb) 33100 kg (73000 lb) 35300 kg (78000 lb)
Speed 24100 km-h (15000 mph)
Ceiling 1100 km (700 miles)
Range 10100 km (6300 miles) 9600 km (6000 miles) 11300 km (7000 miles) 13000 km (8100 miles)
Propulsion
1st stage: Thiokol M55 solid-fuel rocket; 933 kN (210000 lb)
2nd stage: LGM-30A-B: Aerojet General M56 solid-fuel rocket; 267 kN (60000 lb)
LGM-30F-G: Aerojet General SR19-AJ-1 solid-fuel rocket; 268 kN (60300 lb)
3rd stage: LGM-30A-B-F: Hercules M57 solid-fuel rocket; 156 kN (35000 lb)
LGM-30G: Aerojet-Thiokol SR73-AJ-TC-1 solid-fuel rocket; 153 kN (34400 lb)
Post-boost:          LGM-30G only: Rocketdyne RS-14 liquid-fueled rocket; 1.40 kN (315 lb)
Warhead W-59 thermonuclear (1.2 MT)
in Mk.5 RV
W-56 thermonuclear (2 MT)
in Mk.11 RV
3x W-62 thermonuclear (170 kT)
in 3x Mk.12 MIRV
(or 3x W-78 thermonuclear (340 kT)
in 3x Mk.12A MIRV)
Main Sources

[1] James N. Gibson: "Nuclear Weapons of the United States", Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996
[2] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979



More at: Minuteman 3.

Family: ICBM, silo-launched. Country: USA. Engines: RS-14. Spacecraft: Ofeq 5. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral LC32B, Cape Canaveral LC31B, Vandenberg LF04, Vandenberg LF05, Vandenberg LF06, Vandenberg LF02, Vandenberg LF08, Vandenberg LF09, Vandenberg LF21, Vandenberg LF22, Vandenberg LF26, Vandenberg LF25, Vandenberg LF10. Stages: PBS, M55/TX-55/Tu-122, SR19, SR73. Agency: Boeing. Bibliography: 17, 2, 281, 39, 563.

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